Tuesday Teacher Tips: My How Times Have Changed!

Welcome to the Tuesday Teacher Tips series! Each week we’ll highlight teaching and learning resources, ideas to use in the classroom, as well as things to ponder as you go about your teaching day.

When I was in fifth grade there was one lone computer in the entire school. It was very apparent, even to a ten year old, that my teacher didn’t quite know what to do with this new piece of machinery. At one point we had to fill out punch cards to program the computer to say, “Hello.” The objective may have been for us to understand programming and computer language, but in reality the students didn’t see the purpose. It was not something we needed and we had no previous experiences on which to base our learning.

And I’m pretty certain that my teacher didn’t understand the purpose either. I remember at one point after many students complained—their run program didn’t work, the cards were jamming the machine, and the computer crashed—the teacher threw up her hands and said, “Enough! We’re putting this away!” We didn’t see the computer again until sixth grade.

The next year, the lonely computer sat in the hall and was available as a reward. Twice during the year, if you were good, you were allowed to play, “Oregon Trail.” No programming instruction was taught that year.

When I first began my teaching career, the computer was an extra. For me it was like having a deluxe blender in my kitchen, I thought I needed one, it looked impressive on the counter, but if pressed, I would admit, I didn’t use it all that much.

Then slowly, the computer became an administrative tool. Instead of sending the attendance to the office on a slip of paper, we logged on, completed the attendance, and logged off. Our professional development time included learning how to point, click, drag, and drop.

And now? The change is incredible, not only what the internet brings into the classroom and what is available, but how indispensible it has become. School computers are no longer the one extra computer sitting in the hall, available for a turn with Oregon Trail. They are used for real, authentic student learning.

A local school district recently approved Project REAL (Resources to Engage All Learners). Next fall, all students in grade 5-12 will have an iPad. And grades K-4 will have sets of iPod Touches. Instead of textbooks, the district is investing in technology and digital curriculum. Sometimes I feel a bit like my grandmother when she sees people with personal cell phones walking through the store. She remembers when one phone was installed, by a professional, into her home. She usually shakes her head and says, “My how times have changed!”

It’s exciting to experience the changes that technology has brought to education. But it’s also challenging. Not only are teachers trying to keep up with everything new, but they have to figure out to integrate it in the classroom without throwing up the hands and shouting, “Enough!”

What changes have you seen in educational technology throughout your career? How do you integrate technology into daily instruction? Email and let us know. We’d love to hear from you.